MMS Blog

Let’s get one thing out of the way first: I am a millennial. I am part of the generation that has been influenced heavily by the rise of social media, smartphones and the internet. I like to think I have paid my dues: I remember passing handwritten notes and calling friends on landlines, and the first time I accessed the internet was via a dial-up connection. However, I cannot deny the growing presence of technology over my life span. Perhaps it is fitting that I landed the assignment of writing about the 2000s, a decade of increasing connectivity in both private life and the machine shop world.

The May 2006 issue cover story, titled “No Wires, No Worries,” is about Miller Welding & Machine's experience installing a Wi-Fi network in 2005. Miller was not the first manufacturer to do so, nor was this issue the first time that Modern Machine Shop covered the use of wireless networking in machine shop environments. However, the reason for Miller’s Brookville, Pennsylvania, shop to go wireless at precisely this moment was that wired connections to its machine tools had, quite literally, backfired: A lightning strike that hit its main plant in October 2004 destroyed circuit boards inside the computer numerical control (CNC) units on its machining centers, leading to several days of downtime and thousands of dollars needed to get the machines back up and running. A wireless networking system, therefore, seemed like an appealing option.

Modern machine shops are built on a long legacy of technological innovation, but the digitalized, interconnected manufacturing world we know today began to become tangible in the 1990s. Firewalls and intranets; personal-computer-based controls and 3D part files; email, e-commerce and e-everything—all of this was new and strange to shops competing in an era of accelerating globalization, rapidly advancing information technology and, at least in the United States, widespread economic prosperity.  

For some, however, sharing in that prosperity was about more than developing that first website. It was about more than complying with new global quality standards or adopting “black-art” technologies like EDM that were becoming more accessible. Gains from advances in computing filtered all the way down to the interface of cutting tool and workpiece, with forward-thinking shops beginning to mill faster and shallower than ever before.

This year marks the 90-year anniversary of Modern Machine Shop. As you will see in other postings to this site, we have chosen to honor the anniversary by selecting issues out of the past as a way to look back. I prefer this approach to trying to look forward. In my experience, every time I try to predict the future, the actual future that comes is substantially different. Even when I get it right, I miss a vital piece that I could have seen at the time.

In an issue 10 years ago, I wrote a cover story about a development I was confident was coming: greater use of composite materials, particularly carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP). The application of this material to more parts in the aircraft sector, plus expansion into applications beyond aerospace, would create opportunities for shops ready to machine it. A sound premise. I went on to describe machining techniques and some of the perils inherent to composite structures made through material layup, such as delamination and fraying. But over the longer term, would layup remain the sole way to make a short-run polymer composite part?

Sponsored Content 22. June 2018

Searching for the Right Solution at a Trade Show

Trade show are still one of the best ways for people in the manufacturing industry to see new technology. At shows like the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS), companies come from around the globe to showcase their latest products and services.

Many IMTS attendees attend the show with a specific goal in mind: They set out to observe and compare a particular piece of technology.

The development of the computer numerical control (CNC) machining center in the late 1970s signaled the total eclipse of the manual machine tool in the following decade. Very few shops would still rely on standard, “conventional” machines for anything but toolroom work by the end of the 1980s. However, the rise of the computerized machine tool marked an even broader shift in machine shop operations. Computerization came to a wide range of other manufacturing functions (“applications” as we refer to them now) on the shop floor and in the front office. This shift represented two fundamental changes for almost all shops and plants reading this magazine.

One: For the first time, running the manufacturing business and running the production machines would be influenced by a single, powerful technological advance—the personal computer (PC), which was often called a microcomputer around that time. Two: Also for the first time, our industry would be dependent on advances coming from outside the metalworking or manufacturing world. General hardware and software developers such as IBM and Apple Inc. were in the lead, while applications for industrial design and manufacturing followed closely in response. The umbrella term for these applications was clearly “CAD/CAM,” but CAD/CAM was essentially a collection of specific uses for digital technology that was otherwise soaring on its own, independent trajectory of innovation and invention.

RSS RSS  |  Atom Atom